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We Need to Talk About Kevin
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We Need to Talk About Kevin

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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  70,863 ratings  ·  8,650 reviews

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to co

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Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 3rd 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published March 25th 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nandakishore Varma
I am a little apprehensive as to how I should begin this review: there are so many things to talk about.

First of all, I consider this to be truly a great work of literature, not simply "fiction". As a great writer of my native language said: "The real story is on the unwritten pages"; that is, it is the gaps, the pauses and the undercurrents between the characters (which the reader is forced to complete or imagine) which is the mark of great literature. This is one hundred percent correct as far
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Courtney Stanton
Oct 21, 2007 Courtney Stanton rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women contemplating having children
The pull-quote on the cover of the edition I read suggests that it's impossible to put this book down. That's almost entirely false. Out of the book's 400 pages, the first 300 were kind of like pulling teeth. Creepy, maternal teeth. The last 100 pages, however, were actually and physically impossible to look away from, and the brisk pace of the climax, after so. many. pages. of buildup, actually created a really wonderful, complete story that was very satisfying and which (god help me) made me c ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Jun 21, 2009 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents and those who blame them
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Veekee
This book is just devastating ... and devastatingly good. I've just finished it, and had a little cry on the balcony in the bright sunshine, thinking about my mom and motherhood and blame, self-recrimination, guilt and remorse and parental love and the painfully ambiguous, sometimes tortured complexity of it all.

And that is underselling it.

Suffice for now to say, you might not enjoy this if:

- You believe that a lack of maternal instinct or feeling is a character flaw or a moral failing;
- You com
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Kiersten
I did not like this book. Honestly, what was to like about it? The topic is horrifying, the characters are hateful (and not just the characters that commit mass murders) and the writing style is the worst of all.

From the first page I was SO irritated by the writing. I'll bet that the first purchase Ms. Shriver made after finding a publisher for this book was a new thesaurus. I'm positive that hers was absolutely worn out. It was like, "Hi! Let's see how fancy we can sound!" Especially for a boo
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Jenny
Sep 28, 2014 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: i-own
Some readers really don't like this book and I'm not entirely sure why.

Maybe it's because I'm not a mother and I did find it believable that Eva doesn't love her son completely.

Maybe it's because I enjoy the big words that were used in the letters and found it believable that she would write this way.

Maybe I'm a sucker for good endings and this one ended with a bang.

I think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read (the incident with the maps was particularly brutal), it w
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Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Apr 08, 2014 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Hooked by Title and Cover
This book should be sold at the pharmaceutical counter right next to birth control pills, I can’t think of a better deterrent for unwanted pregnancy. It did a great job of confirming a few truisms, maternal instincts are not a given, some children are just born bad, and the worst mistake a couple can make is to allow a child to divide them. It’s the story of Kevin, a lethal mix of nature and poor nurturing resulting in the child from hell. Yet it’s the character of his mother Eva that I found th ...more
Becky
I've started this review 6 times now, and each time, I've deleted it because it doesn't quite convey the right thing. I think the problem is that I'm not sure just what that thing is. But one thing I do know is that I love books that make me feel like this... that "I don't know what I need to say but I need to say something, to talk about this with someone because this book won't keep quiet in my mind" feeling.

I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I fil
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Jessica
This book attacked my brain like a virus. The character of Kevin, the teenage murderer whose mom narrates the epistolary novel, was so disturbing and harrowingly well-drawn, that I think it caused some sort of chemical reaction in my brain. He gave me nightmares. I swear whenever I picked up the book gray clouds covered the sun.

In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva dissects her family's life, from the decision to have a child to the day her son locked 9 classmates and a t
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Nicola
I don't even know where to start with this one. The book was basically a whole load of nothing. It's the absolute definition of ''trying too hard.'' I don't care how many big words Shriver knows the meaning of. Throwing them in so often only made for muddled, disjointed, boring to read sentences.

There's no story. We know from the beginning that Kevin has shot a bunch of students dead, and then Eva goes on to tell random, often exaggerated stories from his childhood leading up to the shooting.

T
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Lain
It's hard to review this book when I am so appalled at what it represents. I appreciate the author's attempt to get into the whys and wherefores of teenage mass murderers, but I'm not sure the book deserves the attention it's gotten. While it definitely presents the story behind one such (fictional) criminal, I don't believe that Kevin's story is every school shooter's story.

I think the relationship between mother and son (a son trying desperately to get a reaction from a mother who not only wa
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Libby
It's official: I'm in love with Lionel Shriver. First of all, she writes novels that should be gimmicky, but are not. In The Post-Birthday World she employs a doubled narrative that splits in two at its heroine's defining moment of choice/will/agency, what have you. In We Have to Talk About Kevin she goes for the epistolary form. But in both cases, the "device" is perfectly matched to the content, like an igloo (form follows function y'all). The meaning of the novel is bound to its form. Secon ...more
Scarlet
---Immediate reaction after reading---

I’m so horrified that I feel sick, and I’m nearly crying, not because of Kevin but for Kevin, and I don’t know who to blame anymore, or what to feel, or what to think. I only know that this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and in all likelihood, will ever read.

How can I so deeply love a book that is this agonisingly ugly??


---Full review---

I knew before I started that reading this was going to be hard. We Need to Talk about Kevin is listed as one of th
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Paul
I give this one a couple of meager points for addressing the difficult subject I realise I'm supposed to love my own child but actually I don't because frankly he's a weirdo and always with the backchat, if he fell in a cementmixer how much better would my life be, a lot, and would the world be any the worse, no.

Doris Lessing addressed the topic also in her weedy novel The Fifth Child. It's a big taboo, and all that.

For my money though, bypass these poor excuses and go straight to nettyflix or
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Kim
This book scared the living crap out of me. (living crap? Really? Is there another kind? I mean, is it dead when it’s out of you? I’m sorry… not getting it)

I kind of sort of knew the gist of the book. It was a rubbernecker… something to do with a deviant child, national tragedy, bandwagon message but I was not expecting this. It is so well written, so proper in its delivery that it takes awhile to warm up to the protagonist as she writes these letters to her husband post trauma or as she calls i
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Addie
Jan 12, 2009 Addie rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gandhi, he's the only person I can think of with enough patience
Jesus christ this book was a waste of time.

I bought it with high hopes. Boy was I wrong. I don’t even know where to begin.

Basically every character in this book is an intolerable asshole. You're supposed to sympathize with them, but it's impossible because they are all such horrible people. The whole escapade turns in to a frustratingly unsatisfying schaudenfraud.
Chapter after chapter contains nothing but the characters going OUT OF THEIR WAY to make you hate them. I hope this was intentional b
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Trudi

It is now abundantly clear to me why this novel is such a popular selection for book clubs the world over -- it is a family saga that features a sordid tragedy, filled with abhorrent, compelling, wretched, titillating detail. It is a book meant to conquer and divide its readers, elicit strong emotion, a take-no-prisoners approach that leaves you anything but detached and unmoved. I can't imagine anyone coming to the end of this ordeal (for it is an ordeal) and not have some opinion, if not a ple
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Terry
This book made me feel...icky. I had heard many good things about it for years, since the hardcover was first released, and I was looking forward to reading it. It literally made me feel like I needed to take a purifying shower afterwards. I did not even want to have the book in my bedroom!

I was also shocked to find out it is/was considered by some reviewers to be a "feminist" book. Um, what? I mean, okay, the female main character (I can't even bring myself to call her a protagonist) is ambival
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Sharon
Kevin Khatchadourian killed seven of his classmates, a teacher and a cafeteria worker. This story is told through a series of letters from Kevin's mother Eva, to her estranged husband Franklin. Through these letters we learn about Eva's life starting from when she and Franklin first met to when she fell pregnant with Kevin. Then once Kevin is born Eva never seemed able to bond with Kevin and the maternal feelings just weren't there. To start off with Kevin refused to breast feed and in time Eva ...more
Petra Xtra Crunchy
At first, this book seems to be about a mass-murdering Columbine-style kid and whether or not he was born that way or his mother, who didn't love him, made him that way. Nature v nurture. Old.

Or perhaps its the lonely ramblings of a woman who has nothing left except guilt, and its only guilt and anything that feeds it that sustains her. Like a drug addict she gets her fix from visiting her son, then the rush, the letters, free-flowing words, all the guilt tumbling almost joyously out, no details
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Barbara
I don’t know where to start about this book. Disturbing? Terrifying? Sad? Brilliant! I could not put this book down from the minute I started it.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is from Lionel Shriver. I have never read one of her books before but this book was listed on the Staff Selection shelf at my local Chapters. (staff picks at my local Chapters haven't let me down yet) It grabbed me from the first page.

The story is told from a mother whose is trying to come to terms with the school massacre he
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Marvin
I do not think I alternately hated and loved a book so much since American Psycho. It is a roller coaster of a novel that doesn't flinch at the uncomfortable aspects of its story. Many reviewers dismiss the characters, especially Kevin and his mother, as unlikable. I think the author successfully portrayed them as real and, if not understandable, at least mirroring portions of our own human frailties and personalities. Kevin is the bigger puzzle and is meant to be. He kills a number of his schoo ...more
K.D. Absolutely
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie
It's hard to know where to start in evaluating this novel. I would fall asleep reading it, then awaken in the wee hours and turn the light on to resume reading. It's haunting and it is dark, dark, dark. It is told in first person, by Eva, the mother of Kevin, her 15-year-old son who has committed mass murder "a la Columbine" and who is incarcerated. It is told entirely through her letters to her husband, Franklin, two years after the high school massacre. (Yes indeed, a true "epistolary" novel.) ...more
Annalisa
Apr 16, 2009 Annalisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: language/violence/sexual content
This book explores the question of nature vs nurture. If you raise a psychopath was he born that way or did the fact that you never bonded with him turn him into one? I could see so many classic behaviors in the book, relationships I have witnessed, characteristics in people I know, that I chewed on the consequences and effects quite a bit as I read. In the end, I wasn't left with a satisfied feeling, but an empty, frustrated, almost evil one. Welcome to Eva's life.

Here's what I think: the fact
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Nicholas Sparks
In a series of letters, Shriver's protagonist Eva Khatchadourian comes to terms with the crimes of her high school-age son. Riveting.
Laurie
Could also be called 'We Need To Talk About A Thesaurus'

Kevin's mother tells this story through some long tedious letters filled with big huge words. This goes on for about 250 pages. I was about to lose it myself, Kevin.

But as you get down deeper this book just takes on a life of its own. Understanding Kevin's mind, the clothes he wears, the details are portrayed perfectly in this evil character. It's like he's breathing over your shoulder ...watching you shiver.

Love, hate, betrayal all blend
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David Rogers
Perfect mother's day gift.
Recynd
What a terrific read; brilliant writing, well-developed and interesting characters, masterful story-telling...I haven't read a book this original and compelling in ages. Plus, so dark!

After reading some of the other reviews, I gave my own impressions of this book more thought. Perhaps I mistook the author's decent vocabulary for good writing skills? Maybe the characters weren't as fleshed out as I had thought; was Eva not only shallow but one-dimensional, as well? Was Kevin a cliche? Was the plo
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Jennifer
I couldn't put this book down. Harrowing it is; disturbing, upsetting, shocking - but brilliant.
It is very hard to identify with the main character; but by doing this, by alienating the reader through unnecessarily complicated language and an ultimately unsympathetic narrator, the author ensures the reader does not automatically take her side in the debate. This makes you start to question her viewpoint rather than just accepting it, opening the book up to the moral debate that is at the heart
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Lobstergirl
May 27, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Larry Mendte
Shelves: fiction

Update: I just read on Gawker that mass killer Elliot Rodger once filled a Super Soaker with orange juice and sprayed a crowd of students. I wonder if he got the idea from this book?

(No, this really is not a book about "motherhood gone awry." It's a nice hook, though.)

Shriver writes in the afterword that her readers generally fall into two camps: those who see school-mass-killer Kevin as a "bad seed" from birth, unredeemable, and those who see Eva as the cold and distant mother who caused Kevin
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Horror Aficionados : September 2014 Group Read: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver 181 277 Oct 28, 2014 03:53PM  
Zalachenko: Yeah just read the damn book 15 6 Oct 11, 2014 09:33AM  
Did Kevin respect his Mum after all? 32 717 Oct 05, 2014 11:31AM  
Similar Books? 9 60 Aug 30, 2014 01:40PM  
How does We Need to Talk About Kevin compare to Shriver's other novels? 13 189 Aug 20, 2014 09:08AM  
The Movie 28 501 Jul 21, 2014 12:39PM  
Sick or evil? Nature or nurture? 65 755 Jun 06, 2014 06:21PM  
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Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism h ...more
More about Lionel Shriver...
The Post-Birthday World Big Brother So Much for That Double Fault A Perfectly Good Family

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“...You can only subject people to anguish who have a conscience. You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever; who worry what you think of them. You can really only punish people who are already a little bit good.” 159 likes
“I thought at the time that I couldn't be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that's a common conceit, that you've already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.” 126 likes
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